UK church and aid agencies concerned over Gaza situation
As Israelís military also hit Lebanese targets by land, sea and air following the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah militants, Christian Aid, Oxfam International and Save the Children UK have said they fear that the escalating violence in re-occupied Gaza will lead to a humanitarian crisis for over 1.3 million Palestinians.
Without electricity, following the air strike on Gazaís sole power station, three key sewage treatments plants are now out of action and over one hundred municipal water wells can no longer operate normally.
The agencies warn of an increasing scarcity of clean water, an increase in water -borne diseases from untreated sewage, and of a health system under extreme stress without stable power supplies.
Action must be taken by both Israel and the Palestinians to stop this deteriorating situation and bring a peaceful end to the crisis. All parties, including the international community, have a responsibility to protect civilians from violence, they say.
They agree that the government of Israel must end its continuing destruction of civilian infrastructure, including electrical generators and water pipelines necessary for survival ñ and immediately restore supplies of food, medicine, electricity, fuel and water as well as opening the Karni crossing for goods.
The agencies also say that Palestinian armed groups must stop indiscriminate attacks on Israel that harm civilians, including firing Qassam rockets into the country. The international community has a duty under international law to ensure the protection of all civilians, they point out.
Adam Leach, regional director from Oxfam said: ìOrdinary Palestinians are suffering from the destruction of bridges, water pipelines and electricity supplies - all things that civilians are entitled to and depend upon.î
He continued: ìHundreds of thousands of people are without a regular supply of water. Many of our vital water projects had already been interrupted because of prolonged Israeli restrictions stopping supplies entering Gaza. Peopleís basic rights are being denied. This does nothing to secure a just and lasting peace in the region.î
Mr Leach added: ìThe crisis comes as tens of thousands of families in Gaza and the West Bank are struggling to survive without an income because of the suspension of tax payments by the government of Israel and aid by the international community to the Palestinian Authority.î
Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of Save the Children declared: ìIn May, Save the Children warned of a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. Today we fear that the situation is sliding towards a humanitarian catastrophe.î
She said that ìchildren are suffering from acute anxiety and fear from ongoing Israeli military attacks and aerial bombardment. These attacks have also targeted civilian structures, including schools. Families, warned of new incursions, are already preparing to flee from targeted areas. Children as always are most affected.î
Christian Aid, the UK churchesí international development agency, works with local NGOs in Gaza. One of their partners, the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA) which works in Khan Younis, has warned how people are being affected living without water and electricity.
Majeda al Saqqa of CFTA said: ìGaza is now very hot and humid with temperatures constantly over thirty degrees. Without power, people cannot pump water up to their flats. Old people cannot reach hospital if they live in high buildings. At least 200 surgical operations have been cancelled.î
[Also on Ekklesia: Gaza crisis hitting civilians badly, say church aid partners 08/07/06; Mennonites concerned and active over Gaza 03/07/06; Gaza invasion and violence is no solution, says Christian Aid 30/06/06; Israeli troops launch military push into Gaza 28/06/06; Gaza militants invoke God to defy pullout; British peace activist arrested in Gaza; Freedom for Kate Burton comes with fresh threats; Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas; Catholics seek to stave off Palestinian hunger; Christians on the West Bank face more fire bomb attacks; Israel releases Palestinian prisoners; Christians warn of Palestinian vote block; Bishop suggests occupied Palestinian territory could become part of new state; Palestinians urge non-violence against Israel; Christian hunger strikers welcome ruling on Israel's Separation Wall; Palestinians want a just peace, say churches; Christians meet to step up peacemaking in Israel and Palestine]